It’s A Living

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Doris Wishman’s pictures are known for,among other things,their off-the-wall plots (see The Amazing Transplant,Double Agent 73). The premise for Another Day,Another Man is actually pretty standard for an exploitation picture: a housewife turns to prostitution to make ends meet when her husband gets sick. Wishman’s touch is all over the cinematography and editing,though: gratuitous zooms, cutaways,inserts…even during dialogue scenes. It’s totally disorienting. I’m not sure what she was going for…it’s as if she couldn’t decide between the “seamless” look of Hitchcock’s Rope and the kinetic energy of New Wave movies. Maybe she was trying to make the first picture expressly for people with ADHD. I’ve gotta admit that Doris had a talent for photographing women,making them look gorgeous and delectably sexy…and in her business,that’s what counts…

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Bad Time With A Good Girl

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“You…YOU…you…do YOU know that BAD GIRLS go to HELL?!” Meg (curvy cutie Gigi Darlene) is not a bad girl per se but her decisions don’t make a lick of sense…when she’s jumped by her building’s creepy janitor, she kills the guy in self-defense…then goes on the lam, hopping the bus to New York…without even telling her husband, who seems like a swell guy. She crashes with an on-the wagon alky…she finds his booze stash, has a nip…and leaves the bottle out. He comes home, gets loaded and…let’s just say he’s a mean drunk…Then she moves in with friendly lesbian Della, who lounges around in this outfit…

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Doesn’t everyone? They chat, dance around in their scanties…

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make it and fall in love. “That’s why I must go” says Meg. And so on and so on…Bad Girls Go To Hell is one of the oddest, most beloved of the roughies…what’s a “roughie”, you ask? It’s a sexploitation picture where women are degraded, whipped, beaten, sometimes killed…why would anyone make such reprehensible pictures? Well, in the days before porn was legal, even softcore sex was frowned upon…but America, being a country founded by Puritans, has always been more comfortable with violence…

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Her Voice A Gun,Her Message A Bullet

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Beautiful, mute ingenue Thana (the captivatingly gorgeous and fascinatingly strange Zoe Tamerlis) is raped…twice in one day, by two random assailants. She kills one in self-defense, then becomes a sort of avenging angel (her name Thana is, I think, short for “Thanatos”…Death) prowling the streets of Manhattan in search of “male chauvinist pigs” to kill…

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Ms. 45 wears the mask of a typical grindhouse revenge picture…it was certainly marketed as such and embraced that way by many fans. The band L7 immortalized her in their song “Ms. 45”. But revenge movies are simple, straightforward good vs evil fantasies, which is what makes them so satisfying. Ms. 45 is much more complex and unsettling. We follow Thana as she goes through PTSD (flashbacks, panic attacks) and descend with her into paranoia and finally psychosis…In truth, she is no more heroic than Travis Bickle or Valerie Solanas. Most “heroes” are not glamorous or exceptional…they’re just average every day people thrust into horrible situations where they’re forced to lash out in order to survive. That, I think, is the real reason that, deep down, so many of us can relate to Ms. 45…

 

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Roundhead’s Revenge

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Vincent Price delighted horror and B-movie fans for generations with his deliciously campy performances…but in this picture he got to play someone truly scary (and real): witchhunter Matthew Hopkins, a corrupt, heartless bastard who oversaw the torture and murder of accused “witches” at the hands of his slimy, sadistic lackeys during the English Civil War of the 17th century. While soldier Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy) is away, Hopkins coerces Marshall’s sweet fiancee Sara (Hilary Dwyer) into sleeping with him by accusing her uncle of witchcraft. She gives in to his twisted whims…and he has the uncle executed anyway. You know that when Marshall finds out, it’s not going to be pretty. And indeed, people were shocked by Witchfinder General’s brutality at the time…but of course, most audiences are seeking escapism, not realism. It’s a pity that this was director Michael Reeves’ (who died at age 26) last picture (He directed only two others and did some 2nd unit direction on Castle Of The Living Dead…She Beast, an oddball little film that is almost a parody of Black Sunday…where else are you gonna see Barbara Steele and Mel Welles in the same picture? And The Sorcerers with Boris Karloff) because it shows so much craft, passion and potential for even greater work…

 

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Just For Jolly

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Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer) and Dr. Watson (James Mason) hunt Jack The Ripper in what may have been the first movie to tackle the Royal Family/Freemason conspiracy theories surrounding the case. It was certainly the last of the gritty, scary, black-humored movies Bob Clark (Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Deathdream, Black Christmas) made in the 70’s before turning to mostly light comedies in the 80’s. (Porky’s and A Christmas Story are of course classics…but I’m still trying to block Rhinestone out of my mind). Plummer and Mason are perfectly cast and have the dry wit, comic timing and rapport required to play the iconic sleuths. Murder By Decree delves so deeply into the conspiracy that it’s almost more of a political thriller than murder mystery or horror film (although it’s certainly moody and terrifying in the right places. It is about Jack The Ripper, after all.) and Plummer’s impassioned speech at the end rivals the filibuster in Mister Smith Goes To Washington. Genevieve Bujold is haunting and heartbreaking in a pivotal cameo. I wish Clark had continued to make films like this…but he made the films he wanted to make and did the best he could whether working independently or with major studio suits breathing down his neck and I respect that…

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Bring The Hammer Down

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This is probably the best thing Al Adamson ever attached his name to…he produced. It’s kinda like a black version of On The Waterfront. Fred Williamson plays B.J. Hammer, a dockworker and boxer being pressured by the Mob to take a dive. Hammer’s an honest man, so he’s not about to do that. So they kidnap his lady Lois (Vonetta McGee…gorgeous, austere and strong as always. She’s awesome in Repo Man also). Well, they can’t put the screws to the Hammer without expecting to get nailed…

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Hide Your Mamas

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This cat makes Superfly look like a gnat. Isaac Hayes is cool and charismatic as Truck the bounty hunter and also provided the soundtrack. When he and his partner Jerry (Alan Weeks) kill a brutal pimp named Gator (Paul Harris) in a shootout while trying to apprehend him, Gator’s old lady Dorinda…

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(Nichelle Nichols, better known to us trekkies as Lt. Uhura. It’s pretty startling to see her play such a vicious, guttermouthed villainess)

offers their stable of ladies to the first pimp who can ice Truck. The top contender is Harvard Blue, played with low-key menace by Yaphet Kotto. Buckle up for chaos and mayhem and keep your beady little eyes peeled for the ubiquitous Dick Miller as a lawyer, little rascal Stymie Beard, Charles Cyphers as a drunk, Scatman Crothers (in a ridiculous rug) and Tara Strohmeier as “Turnpike”. Director Johnathan Kaplan’s Truck Turner is one of the most epic, thoroughly enjoyable, balls-to-the-wall badass blaxploitation pictures of the 70’s…

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